Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Program in English

Q: May I arrange a meeting with the Associate Director of Graduate Studies/Director of Graduate Admissions to discuss the program?

A: As a rule, the Associate Director of Graduate Studies/Director of Graduate Admissions meets with students after they have applied and been accepted into the graduate program.

Q: What are my chances of being admitted, and what criteria do the admissions committee use in determining admission?

A: We receive approximately three hundred and fifty applications each year, and we are able to offer admission to approximately 18 of those applicants. The Graduate Admissions Committee weighs a number of factors when considering candidates. The admissions committee places the most importance on a candidate's personal statement and writing sample. These pieces of writing must show, first of all, that the applicant would like to be a part of and is capable of succeeding at a graduate program whose goal is to train students to be professional literary scholars. We look for applicants who are asking provocative and potentially productive literary questions and who are interested in exploring such questions in a rigorous intellectual environment. The personal statement and writing sample must also demonstrate that the candidate would fit in well with our program's strengths. Third, they must show that the candidate has the skills and abilities required for those who are to be trained in literary studies. Obviously, a candidate's undergraduate and -- if applicable -- graduate record is very important in determining admission, as are letters of recommendation. 

Q: How long should the writing sample be, and what criteria do you use to evaluate the samples?

A: We have no official requirement regarding the length of the writing sample. We ask that you send us a piece or pieces of your writing so that we can determine from this material if you have the necessary skills to succeed as a graduate student in English and, ultimately, a professional literary scholar at a major university. Such skills would include an ability to produce close, careful readings of texts as well as the ability to situate those readings in the context of a challenging and focused argument. Twenty-five pages would not be too much to send. A four-five page analytical paper would be far too short. Whatever you send, we strongly recommend that you seek the counsel of a faculty member at your present school (if you are currently attending one) or one of your previous institutions who has some familiarity with the current state of debates in literary studies.

Q: How long should the personal statement be?

A: We have no official requirement regarding the length of the personal statement, although the typical length is between one and three pages.

Q: How many letters of recommendation do you need and whom should I ask?

A: We require three letters of recommendation and you should ask the faculty who both know your work best and are enthusiastic about your work to write for you.

Q: Do I have to take the GREs?

A: The GRE general and subject tests are not required.

Q: Do I have to take the TOEFL exam if my native language is not English?

A: Yes. Brown University requires this exam. Further information can be found on the Graduate School's website at

Q: Can I apply to the graduate program if my undergraduate and/or Master’s degree is not in English?

A: Yes. Your record, however, must demonstrate substantial coursework and research ability in literary studies.

Q: May I apply to both the M.F.A. program in Literary Arts (formerly Creative Writing) and the Ph.D. program in English?

A:  Yes.  However, you must submit electronically two applications and two sets of materials as well as pay two application fees.  If you are accepted into both programs, you will only be allowed to matriculate in one or the other.

Q: Does the English Department have an M.A. program?

A:   No. The M.A. program has been indefinitely suspended; however, a transitional M.A., the B.A./M.A. program, and the Open Graduate M.A. program are available to in-house Brown students.

Q: What financial support does Brown offer its graduate students in the Ph.D. program in English?

A: The University offers incoming graduate students six years of guaranteed financial support, including a stipend, tuition remission, a health services fee, a health and dental insurance subsidy, and four years of summer support.  Students are supported by a fellowship in the first year. In years two, three, five and six, students are supported by a teaching assistantship, and in year four by a dissertation fellowship. Financial support is contingent upon students remaining in good standing in the program and making good progress toward the doctoral degree.

Q: Does the English Department have a Film/Media Studies track?

A: We do not have a Film/Media Studies track within the Ph.D. program. The Department of Modern Culture and Media offers a doctoral program in Modern Culture & Media.

Q: If I am accepted for admission, can I defer?

A: No. Acceptance into the Ph.D. program cannot be deferred from one year to another. If you are unable to begin graduate studies in September, you will need to reapply.

Q: Can I reactivate my application from one year to the next?

A: Applications and supporting materials cannot be reactivated from one year to the next.

Q: What is the admission deadline for academic year 2022-23?

A:  The deadline to submit an application in CollegeNET is December 15, 2021. 

Q: Where may I find application information and the online application? 

A: Detailed information and the online application is available on the Graduate School's website at 

Q: Whom should I notify if the name on my transcripts, GREs, or other documents is different from the name on my initial application (maiden name, married name, etc.)?

A:  Contact the Graduate School admission staff at [email protected] to avoid any mishaps with admission materials.